Yesterday we spent a few hours in a Bedouin camp at a Budo for Peace dojo. -Budo for Peace brings together young people from conflict areas to learn and practice traditional Japanese budo (martial arts) in order to learn its values and apply them toward breaking down fear and building trust between peoples- (Budo for Peace website). Budo means –the way of stopping conflict. This dojo was in Abu Quider a small, unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev desert. The village has a population of about 3000, electricity is provided by generators-but not consistently, and their is no constant water supply. The dojo is nothing more than a concrete building with some thin mats on the floor. This dojo has been successfully operating since 2006 and has a dedicated set of girl and boy students ranging in ages from 6 or 7 up to 17-18 years of age. They just promoted their first black belt student.
After performing some kata (i.e. a form) demonstrations for us they asked if we would please do some demos for them. We were more than happy. We very much enjoy teaching, but we also like to throw each other around and hitting each other a great deal. Our youngest black belt, Varda, led their youngest students in a karata kata. Varda has been training in the martial arts for over 40 years, karata specifically for 27 years and just received her black belt this year…she is 79 years old!
After Varda, Zosia beat me up blindfolded. It is a reminder that even without our eyes we can effectively defend and disarm someone if necessary. Zosia is an 8th Dan (i.e. black belt) in Zujitsu-Ryu, the Executive Director of the Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors (AWMAI), a National Women’s Martial Arts Federation Self Defense Certified Instructor and board member. Zosia has 33 years of martial arts experience. Zosia is married to Grand Master Shaka Zulu. Next to beat me up was Sherry. Sherry has over 38 years of experience in the martial arts. Sherry is one of the highest-ranking female martial artists in the world. She holds a 10th Dan in a traditional Okinawan/Japanese martial art and holds a rank of 4th Dan or higher in seventeen different traditional styles of martial arts. Sherry is the Rank Coordinator for the AWMAI and International Director of the women’s division of Pachivas Pankration and a long list of other things. Sherry is also a certified Post Defensive Tactics Instructor for law enforcement professionals and has spent many years as a body guard.
Not to be left out Janice decided to beat me up next. Janice holds a 7th Dan in Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, a 6th Dan in Small Circle Jujitsu and 3nd Dan in Kodokan Judo. Janice also has a long list of service to the martial arts with particular emphasis on woman’s organization. Janice and I (Jill-2nd Dan Danzan Ryu Zenyo Jujitsu) train in virtually the same style of martial arts. Janice showed a number of take downs from a choke. You don’t see any of the chokes in the photos, but trust me-I started off thinking I was giving her a good choke and before I knew it she was either leading me around the room by my finger or throwing me up into the air.
Finally…a break…someone else got to be thrown around. Jamie holds a 5th Dan in Aikido, is a LPGA Pro, a Sports Psychologist and a Body-Mind Fitness expert. Jamie is co-founder of the Middle East Peace Project. Jamie brought Palestinian, Jewish and Christian kids from the Middle East to the United States for a month of training in 2009 and will do so again in 2010. Jamie has done so much work behind the scenes for peace in the middle east through martial arts. We will be hearing more about her work in an upcoming blog.
Laura has been practicing martial arts for 20 years. The two main martial arts that she is involved in are Arnis/Kali/Escrima and Aikido. She also has had training in Hap-ki-do, self defense and karate. Laura has served on the Board of Directors for the AWMAI – Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors, and is currently the Secretary of the OAF (Ontario Aikido Federation). Laura has competed for many years and holds numerous World Championship medals including Gold in Forms and Full Contact Stick Fighting. Laura teaches Women’s Self Defense and Empowerment courses and is a certified S.A.F.E.(Self Awareness for Everyone) Instructor.
Gabriele has been training in Modern Arnis for 25+ years. Modern Arnis has recently been recognized in the Filipino Constitution. Gaby is the only woman of seven successors appointed by Professor Remy Presas (the founder of Modern Arnis and who passed away in 2001). Gaby was also honored with the title Master of Tapi Tapi-or highest level of proficiency in the art of Modern Arnis, which is a level beyond all black belt levels in the art. Gaby is Chair of International Modern Arnis Federation (IMAF), Europe and a member of the steering committee IMAF Inc., in the United States. She is active NWMAF and PAWMA member and travels nationally (i.e. Germany) and internationally on a annual basis to lead workshops and special training seminars in Modern Arnis.
Back to being Uke again, but Yudit gave me a bit of a break, instead of throwing my around she just put me on the mat and wrapped me up like a burrito. Yudit is a 3rd Dan in judo. Yudit is the Founder and Chairperson of El Halev-Israel (the Israel Women’s Martial Arts Foundation), the organization that has brought us here to Israel for the Circle of Strength tour. El Halev is a nonprofit organization designed to empower woman through the martial arts and self-defense. Yudit’s dedication to woman and those less advantaged is tireless. In addition to El Halev Yudit directs The Martial Arts Center at Gush Etzion which focuses on young people and at-risk teens. She founded and runs the Merkaz Edna a rehabilitation center for women with psychological problems. Yudit also serves as a Special Olympics judo referee and the Jerusalem Shelter for Battered Women.
As you can see this is an impressive group of women. We have had an incredible time her in Israel. The work that El Halev and organizations such as Budo for Peace is so important. It has been an incredible honor for all of us to be involved. We have gained as much as we have given.